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Creative Courage in the Age of Flux

Strategy

Creativity: A simple, yet loaded word. It encompasses everything we could potentially claim as unique about ourselves and our ideas. The ever-driving need to be creative can be a life-shaping catalyst for many, and certainly as someone who works at a creative agency, the concept of creative expression always interests me. Recently I read Mark McNeilly’s The Creativity Gap where he summarizes Adobe’s recent global benchmark study on attitudes and beliefs about creativity at work, school and home.

The study generated many questions for me. For example, it says, “There is increasing pressure to be productive rather than creative at work.” Yet on the very next page of the survey, it states, “At least half agree that they are increasingly being expected to think creatively at work.” Those summations seem to trump one another. Are being productive and being creative really mutually exclusive in many workplaces?

We have lived through far darker times in human development. To be sure, the economic pitfall we have been grappling our way out of for the better part of four years has added new roadblocks to our time and peace of mind and curbed our energy and enthusiasm, as well. But lack of time and lack of institution-based support for creativity in general are not new developments.

Still, one of the many unfortunate aspects of the economic conundrum that became paramount over the past three years was the shaking of confidence in ourselves, our institutions and what it means to survive. Can creativity blossom when chronic, debilitating fear of failure is added to the already frothing pot?

Now more than ever, we need a creative permission slip from ourselves and those who control our livelihoods. Now is a perfect time for bold, creative thinking for its own sake. In risk lie the answers (not exclusively based on revenue or stratospheric profit, either). Considering the broad, varied spectrum of human capabilities, how do we create sustainable income for both individuals and corporations and still foster a feeling of creativity? Re-invention requires creativity, does it not?

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Enter what Robert Safian calls Generation Flux. What a fascinating development! “Generation Flux” is a generation based neither on age nor industry. It is characterized by the emergence of the multi-generational, techno-savvy blend of expertise we have all been witnessing and participating in (knowingly or not). Safian writes, “Few traditional career tactics train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.” Is this not, in essence, a creative quest? Perhaps the dawn of a new utopian age, a cross-generational nirvana where striving to acquire new skills prevents anyone from plateauing long enough for a generation gap to form?

Sure the past three to four years have been frightening, but what better time to go out on a limb? We humans do our best when we are thrown to the wolves and our backs are against the wall (look at most adventure, hero-based stories throughout our history). A few brave individuals tap into their inner voices and rise above the status quo for all mankind. OK, that’s dramatic, but my point is this: solutions for how we live and do business cannot be completely driven by, or framed by, the safe, black and white road that perpetuates profits, at all cost, for just a few. Surely creativity must be adaptable to change, whether rapid or stolid … has it not been so across the ages?

Right now, we all have unique tools at our disposal that give voice to nearly anything our minds can entertain. Consider the explosion of Pinterest, Instagram and similar tools for self-expression – good signs that a creative flicker is alive. But perhaps expressing yourself is one thing, and creating in such a way that you feel you have changed the world with your contribution is quite a different matter … Or is it? We need visionary thinking more than ever precisely because we have the global technology to experience expanded imagination and creative energy. Just picture for a moment the power behind shared creative vision …

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